Letters from Afghanistan and Les Fleurs Finish at Last

You know you love your cat when you let her sit on an applique quilt you've been working on for a year:

Slowly ever so slowly, she did the final steps to complete the Les Fleurs quilt:

Not believing that the dratted, er wonderful, quilt was almost complete, she added the borders. And it was done (to flimsy stage, that is):

Timmy wrote a letter in Afghanistan on February 3rd that I received today, on March 3rd. It is long, but I thought several of you might enjoy reading it:


Dear Mamaceta,

I can finally cross “invade a foreign country” off my Life’s To-Do List. We landed here in Afghanistan a few days ago on a military-funded C-7 flight from Kyrgyzstan. The flight wasn’t bad at all, except for the distinct lack of complimentary in-flight snacks. We had to execute what’s called a “combat landing” at the end of the flight. That’s where the plane rapidly descends from around 20,000 feet to the ground in about five minutes. It did not feel good.

After we landed, I had this mental image of my platoon and I gallantly striding off the airplane, the sun glinting off our weapons and our white American teeth, as we looked out over the panoramic Afghan mountains. Instead, we stumbled off the plane, heads spinning from the rapid descent, with the sun blinding our eyes. As soon as I’d blinked the tears out of my vision, I was greeted by my first view of Afghanistan: a flaming 20-foot-tall mountain of burning garbage. My team leader, CPL S--, clapped me on the back and assured me that “it only gets worse”.

We spent a couple of days at the main base doing classes on IEDs, truck maintenance, push to primers, and that sort of stuff. One major source of funding for the Taliban is drug money from the opium trade (Afghanistan pumps out 90% of the world’s supply of opium). The Corps has seen fit to bring in several counter-drug experts from the DEA, FBI, INTERPOL, and every other government agency with an acronym. Our counter-drug expert is a regular beat cop from Atlanta. Apparently working the night shift in downtown Atlanta is excellent prior experience to qualify you to serve as a military liaison officer fighting fundamentalist narcoterrorists in an active war zone.

From the main base, we convoyed out to our smaller FOB. It is more rustic than the main base. No running water, no infrastructure, and no internets (ed.note: ”internets” is a private joke: I was amused on a job many years ago where a co-worker, dim as they come [but who, mind you, makes twice as much money as I do without doing a minute of work, so who is really the dim one], earnestly explained to me, a very competent computer user, that a particular desktop icon, when clicked, would take me to the “internets”; Timmy and I forever after speak of the internet as a plural land) anywhere in sight. Mamaceta, if you tried living like this, you might have second thoughts about your idealistic “primitive Amish lifestyle” death wish.

Hey, it isn’t all bad. I have a cot. We have one power outlet that we fight over to charge our iPods, and hopefully a working mail system that will bring this letter to you (ed.note: shall we say a not-very-speedy one).

We are partnered with a large contingent of Afghan soldiers (Afghan National Army or ANA) here on the base. They tear around the base in Ford Rangers with machine guns mounted on top, blaring music on their radios, no helmets or body armor anywhere on their bodies. Basically, they’re living my dream.

They speak broken English and my Pashto vocabulary is limited to such violent phrases as “stop or I’ll shoot”, “get down or I’ll shoot”, and “put your hands up or I’ll shoot”. It makes healthy interaction difficult.

We pantomime to one another and somehow communicate. They seem like good guys and have a great sense of humor. Our guys trade cigarettes with them and they show one another their tattoos. Cigarettes are the currency here. For a carton of Marlboro Reds, I could get a goat at the Haji shop here on base.

The ANA aren’t nearly the bearded fundamentalists I thought they would be. Our interpreter (codename: “Chuck”) told us that his fondest dream is to go to America, presumably for the liberty and freedom and such. No, it is because he says American women are sexy.

Mostly, they seem to just want to do their jobs, get paid, have families, worship Allah, and get stoned. Not unlike a lot of my friends back home.

Love you Mama. Timmy


Lori said...

I hope you and Timmy can keep a sense of humor. I'll be praying for him and his buddies.

Hey, your quilt is awesome!! What an accomplishment!! Woo-Hoo!

Gretchen said...

Rembrandt sure knows the best quilts to test out:) It is going to be gorgeous!!! I really love Timmy's letters. I think with his sense of humor he will be OK. Godspeed Timmy! And big hugs to his mama :)

Anna said...

bless his heart...I'll put Timmy on my prayer list

Kathy said...

Timmy is a great letter-writer - I hope you share his letters often. It was fun to read!

My son and I call it "the Internets" too, for much the same reason you do. (And also "the Google") I wonder sometimes if people overhear us and think we really mean that!

Beautiful quilt - your cat did a great job on the borders!

Joanne said...

Thanks for sharing your letter.♥

Karen said...

A very pretty finish. Lots of stitching on that project!

Julie said...

Thank you for sharing your letter from Timmy. I love his descriptions. Thanks also for the shot of lovely Rembrandt helping with the quilt.

antique quilter said...

love your version of this quilt
great fabric choices and of course he just had to sit on your quilt :)
Keeping Timmy and all that serve our country to protect us in my prayers. I love that the two of you can have a sense of humor thru this, keeps you going I am sure.
Enjoy your weekend.

The Calico Cat said...

What a great letter, not I mean quilt top, no I mean cat! Yeah that is it, you have a smart lovely cat. :o)

ann hermes said...

What a wonderful son you have. Stay safe!

Libby said...

That is just the BEST letter ever! I can't tell you how much I enjoy getting a peek into Timmy's days through his letters . . . . thank you for sharing them.

Now let's talk about your gorgeous quilt. Mmm-mmm good! I covet those inner borders in a way that only a deranged quilter could.

Michele said...

Karen, your Timmy writes a mighty fine letter, a thing which is rather rare these days. He sounds in good spirits, and gives a lively picture of his life "over there". Thank you so much for sharing his words, and I know everyone who reads your blog is sending prayers, and good thoughts his way. Also, congrats on your Les Fleurs. It's lovely. Michele

Melanie said...

Great Guy---- Keep the faith...He'll stay in my prayers....

Sherrill said...

What an AWESOME 'kid' you have there!! He's HILARIOUS! Thanks for sharing his letter and tell him THANKS SO MUCH for his service.

MARCIE said...

Timmy has won the hearts of quilters everywhere. I know that will please him! What a character he is. He should write a book about all this.

Your Les Fleurs is awesome! What a fabulous accomplishment!

Karmen said...

Timmy is an amazing writer! I read his letter out loud to my Vietnam-era vet husband, and we both enjoyed hearing from the front. Best wishes to your family! I'll bet you let him sleep under Les Fleurs with his boots on when he gets home. Karmen

Jeanne said...

Thank you for sharing Timmy's latest letter. He has a wonderful way of bringing a smile to his readers. I pray for his continued safety. Two of my children served in The Gulf War. I remember the letters never came quick enough for me.

Barb said...

congrats on the finish - it's wonderful.
How nice to get a long good letter, a month delay must be a little tough.
It must really make your day when it comes, thanks for sharing it.

Vivian said...

Catching up on my blog reading, and I have to add my 2-cents' worth, as the old saying goes. The flimsy is lovely. I really like the combination of applique and that wonderful sashing fabric.

Many motherly, positive thoughts heading to Afghanistan from this military mom. His humor and view of the world make for some entertaining reading. Hopefully the next letter won't take as long to travel to your mailbox.

The Quilted Finish said...

Your son has the rare gift (these days) of articulate and entertaining letter writing, thanks for sharing, my thoughts are with him.
I always enjoy seeing what you are working on, lovely quilt.

Betty said...

Needless to say, I'm a little behind. I know you said you got a letter, but I didn't know it was on your blog. He writes so well and with a sense of humor.